Imitation Wine Warning Impacts Consumers and Investors

April 7, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

The Antique Wine Company showing a counterfeit magnum (L), which the company spotted and was not sold, and a genuine one (R). Recently fake wine bottles of Jacob's Creek, have been appearing as authorities traced the production coming from China.  (AFP/Getty Image)
The Antique Wine Company showing a counterfeit magnum (L), which the company spotted and was not sold, and a genuine one (R). Recently fake wine bottles of Jacob's Creek, have been appearing as authorities traced the production coming from China. (AFP/Getty Image)
Wine connoisseurs are on the alert as counterfeit alcohol incidents have increased in recent weeks.

The most recent international scandal involved Jacob’s Creek, a notable brand of Australian wine. Although there have been no reports of harm to consumers yet, Trading Standard officials in the U.K. have warned that the wine has “very low quality and substandard taste.” The authorities have traced the original production of the wine to be from China, in the Canton Province.

According to a company spokesperson, “Tests indicate the content is not harmful but anyone with doubts concerning the authenticity should not consume it."

A typo on the bottle’s label, which distinguishes it from the authentic wine, reads, “Wine of Austrlia,” rather than “Wine of Australia.” Owner of Jacob’s Creek, Pernod Richard UK, has been assisting with the investigation since counterfeit product was first detected in January, following customer complaints about the quality of the wine.

“Customers who called in said that the wine tasted 'unusual’ or that 'it appears to be diluted’ or that 'it has a different taste and color,” according to a spokesperson for Jacob’s Creek in an interview with the UK Telegraph. “We’re seeing it across all of the range.”

So far, fake bottles have only been detected in the U.K.. The counterfeit wine includes:

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Merlot 2009
Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Chardonnay 2009
Semillon Chardonnay 2009

Investment in wine has become popular similar to art collections. One recent lawsuit involved a billionaire wine investor yachtsman, William Koch, who alleged that auction house Christie’s International knowingly sold him a bottle of Bordeaux wine (1870 Lafite for $4,200) and falsely claimed that it once belonged to the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.

However, Koch’s lawsuit was dismissed because the “cause of his injuries was not Christie’s’ misleading statements but the plaintiff’s desire to gather evidence against Christie’s,” U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones wrote in her decision.

Koch personally has invested more than $12 million in wine investments and owns a cellar with around 40,000 bottles.

Authorities in Toronto, Canada, have also been investigating imitation bottles of an expensive 2006 Italian wine, Negal Amarone Classico, after customers sought refunds due to poor quality and taste. Another label discrepancy was discovered on the wine’s bottle.